Something very unique happened after the 2nd World War — an entire generation of pack-rats was born. Rather than go by “Pack-Rat Generation”, they called themselves Baby Boomers – or at least someone started calling them that. Now, this is totally a generalization. Not all boomers are pack-rats. In fact, some are “minimalists”. Some were pack-rats, but through the beauty of the empty-nesting phase, they have downsized and realized “wow, I had a lot of useless $hit“.
Yes, your stuff is $hit and your $hit is stuff — George Carlin was right this whole time, and boomers are getting it.
I’ve watched a few family members sell all their stuff — well — most of their stuff. My own mother used to hang on to anything and everything, so it seemed. We had a drawer in our kitchen with four or five carving sets (I lost count at three). Really, we only needed one. It’s not like a roast beef, turkey, ham, and chicken all required different carving tools. If Crocodile Dundee could kill a crocodile, shave his face, and ward off muggers in New York with his lone knife, I’m sure we could’ve carved a variety of meat with just one knife too.
The thing is, the pack-rat generation was raised by parents who, in all likelihood, lived through the Great Depression. So I don’t hold anything against this “keep everything” mentality of the boomer generation. But I’ve seen people keep stuff that’s broken because of sentimental value. I’ve seen people keep stuff because of Justin Case, meaning they used it once 8 years ago and keep it, just in case they might need it someday again. I’ve seen people keep stuff because they might fit into it again…someday.
At some point in life, people realize that life isn’t about accumulating stuff. They realize that memories are in our hearts and minds, not in stuff. They realize that keeping stuff “just in case” just takes up space. And they realize that keeping stuff they’re not likely going to fit into again only keeps them hanging on to the past and clutters their closets.
For some in the pack-rat generation, getting rid of stuff for nothing goes against that Great Depression mindset of “keep it, you paid money for it, so it has value“.
Sadly, a lot of stuff from their generation that was once the cat’s meow are now the dog’s breakfast. China, no thanks. Armoires, coffee tables, dressers and other solid wood items? Nah, people would rather buy their own cardboard-stuffed-faux-wood tables from IKEA and get a an amazing multi-use hex tool.
The boomer generation seems to have a boatload of this type of stuff (not the IKEA stuff). And it’s stuff that often doesn’t sell, or if it does it’s for a fraction of what you (the seller) think it’s worth. Donations go a long way when it comes to china and large furniture. Shelters, soup kitchens, non-profit thrift shops — they can all use stuff like this. Because it’s happening…
The pack-rat generation is finally unpacking!
My mom has realized (through her son’s sarcastic blogs…her son being me if you needed some clarification) that having five carving sets is about four too many. She’s gradually been donating stuff to whoever will take it. More stuff = more stuff to clean. So she’s freed up her cleaning time to do things she enjoys more…because nobody enjoys cleaning!
My uncle just recently moved, and in doing so, got rid of a lot of stuff, including his collection of ancient beer cans from around the globe (he donated them to his nephew who happens to own/operate a craft brewery). And after his move he and his wife said they want to get rid of even more stuff, buy a trailer, and travel the continent. Hello life experience!
My in-laws are getting in on all the fun, too. Ma and Pa-in-law are emptying the basement — a basement they wanted specifically to store stuff — and are now on their way to a lighter life, both below and above grade!
In all fairness, pack-rat isn’t some nice way of saying “hoarder”. Nobody in my family is a hoarder, they just had a lot of stuff compared to me. And I could lecture, preach, or belittle family members 24-7-365 about having too much stuff, but in the end, only they knew when it was time to free themselves of their stuff.
There’s a popular song, The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics, that starts with the line; “Every generation, blames the one before”. I don’t blame the pack-rat generation for anything. I praise them for teaching me that life isn’t about accumulating stuff. Taking the lesson even further, watching them try to unload that stuff is an experience I’d rather not…well…experience!
Now go sell all your stuff and unpack your pack-rat ways!
2 thoughts on “The Pack-Rat Generation is Finally Unpacking!”
I enjoy your articles and news letter. Thank you so much. Your quiz helped my husband and I realize that we are accomplished minimalists in our 40s. Our aunt whose in her 60s up the street has a hoarding issue and is on her way to the nursing home. She also has dementia. Our folks do not have that issue at all.
Thanks for commenting Shanna. Dealing with hoarding is a challenge that pros should handle, especially when something like dementia is involved. Hope her transition goes okay to nursing home.